March 24, 2012

Ferris Wheel Park

Neighborhood Amusement Park
District of Lake View 
painting by Armando Pedroso
Some Background
In 1890, the U.S. Congress decided that the celebration of the 400th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of America should be located in Chicago, and accordingly, on April 9, the State of Illinois licensed the corporation known as the World's Columbian Exposition to prepare for this grand event. The Corporation's directors, in October, 1890, appointed the rising architect, Daniel H. Burnham, Construction Chief and delegated to him autocratic powers. Burnham, architect of the first skyscrapers, was a good bet to score a smashing success, both for the Exposition and for himself. At this early stage, he was chiefly concerned at the lack of participation by America's civil engineers. Seeking to stir them into action, he arranged to speak before the 'Saturday Afternoon Club', an informal group of architects and engineers who were interested in the Fair. Their gatherings had served as a sort of public opinion poll on many of the architectural and engineering structures of the Exposition. It was immediately proposed to build a tower 500 feet higher than Eiffel's, but since this would be playing second fiddle to Eiffel's genius, this idea was dismissed. Mere "bigness" was not what was wanted. Something novel, original, daring and unique must be designed and built if American engineers were to retain their prestige and standing.
 postcard - Ebay
Harper's Weekly 1893
 a zoomed view of the cars
‘The original Ferris Wheel, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel, was designed and constructed by Ferris Jr.. With a height of 264 ft it was the tallest attraction at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, where it opened to the public on June 21, 1893. It was intended to rival the (1,063 ft) Eiffel Tower, the center piece of the 1889 Paris Exposition. Ferris was a graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, bridge-builder. He began his career in the railroad industry and then pursued an interest in bridge building. Ferris understood the growing need for structural steel and founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, a firm that tested and inspected metals for railroads and bridge builders. The wheel rotated on a 71-ton, 45.5-foot axle comprising what was at that time the world's largest hollow forging, manufactured in Pittsburgh by the Bethlehem Iron Company and weighing 89,320 pounds, together with two 16-foot-diameter cast-iron spiders weighing 53,031 pounds. There were 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people, giving a total capacity of 2,160. The wheel carried some 38,000 passengers daily and took 20 minutes to complete two revolutions, the first involving six stops to allow passengers to exit and enter and the second a nine-minute non-stop rotation, for which the ticket holder paid 50 cents. The Exposition ended in October 1893, and the wheel closed in April 1894 and was dismantled and stored until the following year. It was then rebuilt on Chicago's North Side,  Lincoln Park [Wrightwood & Clark], an exclusive [residential] neighborhood. This [in turn] prompted William D. Boyce, then a local resident, to file a Circuit Court action against the owners of the wheel to have it removed, but without success. It operated there from October 1895 until 1903, when it was again dismantled, then transported by rail to St. Louis for the 1904 World's Fair and finally destroyed by controlled demolition using dynamite on May 11, 1906.’ 
- text by boyl-timo, a seller at Ebay
The assemble of the axle 
1893 Chicago Columbia Exposition with
photo - Ebay
The view at the top - Man on Five
An Article by Patrick Meehan
"Seated in the audience was a tall, slight young engineer with a pale, resolute face. This was George Washington Gale Ferris, at that time the senior partner in a firm specializing in building steel bridges. Thirty-two years old, he had been educated at the California Military Academy and Rensseler Polytechnic Institute, where he received an engineering degree in 1881. For several years, he had worked on railroads and mining ventures and was one of the first to make a profession of testing materials and structures.
The popular story is that Ferris designed the wheel while at dinner with friends in a Chicago restaurant and that it was built without a change being made to this original sketch. There is some evidence, however, that he had designed the Wheel five or six years prior to the Exposition and it is possible that he chose a quiet moment after dinner to reveal these plans. Ferris decided that this was the proper time and the opportunity he had been looking for to build his Great Wheel and he set about this monumental task."
photos - Chicago History Museum
notice the worker climbing a cable
According to the Chicago Tribune - 1893
And Then the Move to the
 District of Lake View 
double fold 1906 postcard - from my collection
zoomed view of above postcard 
photo - Chuckman Collection

image above - 'Challenging Chicago' by 
Perry Duis & donated Jackie Arreguin

This 1894 Sanborn Map highlights the pre-construction site of the park - lot #2 apparently where Drummond Place is located today west of Clark Street to Wrightwood, Clark Street to what will be Lehmann Court - an alley then.

photo via Glen Miller-Original Chicago on Facebook
The wheel rotated on a 71-ton, 45.5-foot axle comprising what was at that time the world's largest hollow forging, manufactured in Pittsburgh by the Bethlehem Iron Company and weighing 89,320 pounds, together with two 16-foot-diameter (4.9 m) cast-iron spiders weighing 53,031 pounds.
photos from 'storeyofchicago'
Review the photo towards the top of this post from Man on Five of the 'view' and imagine the view of the District of Lake View from Wrightwood and Clark streets.

photo - Ebay
It stood 264 feet tall and took 20 minutes for the 36 luxury cars to make one revolution
View southeast corner of Clark Street 
at Diversey Avenue (Parkway)
photo - Man on Five
 Streetcar on the move via Clark Street heading toward away from the car-barn (garage)
View one of the first movies filmed in America with the 
the 2006 Google Map view
a 1894 Sanborn Map of the location of the film projector angled to 1816 Wrightwood building to the ferris wheel. The 1816 building was construction after this map was issued and before the park was established in 1896. If you draw a straight line from the projector to the wheel this works.
photo - Lance Grey-Chicagopedia-Facebook
The Public Transportation Route from Chicago
During this time period transportation along Clark Street ended at the amusement park

 1894 Sanborn Fire Map 
This map shows the streetcar garages called carbarns
that were located along Clark Street that flank the park for easy access to the park from Chicago. The owner of the park was also the owner of the car-barns and many public transportation routes in Chicago. The car-barns were called 'Limits' indicating the end of the line 
A View on Drummond Place 
west of Clark Street
 J.J. Sedelmaier via Forgotten Chicago-Facebook
Google Map east view from Drummond Place
Brian Wolf via Forgotten Chicago on Facebook
with a cool fade-out animation by Brad Cornelius  
According to a Forgotten Chicago contributor on Facebook, David Zornig, believes “just north of Wrightwood, there are still some odd shaped lots behind the old post office and the small hotel that used to be a movie theater; hence the odd driveway to the right of the hotel entrance. I believe that driveway was the lobby entrance. There's a picture of it on Cinema Treasures, but I don't recall the theater name. To the South of the current McDonald's, was the Playdium bowling alley that was there until the `70's. My grandfather sanded the lanes there. One could see from the McDonald's lot North, that there was a large enough strip of lots behind Clark St. storefronts, to accommodate something that size.” - 2012 testimony.
The Wheels' Initial Planned Location in 1894
According to the authors of Northsiders: Essays on the history and culture of the Chicago Cubs (page 17) the residents of a subdivision of Pine Grove (northern Lake View East ) voted in 1894 against a new trolley line along Evanston Avenue (Broadway) hence ending the opportunity of the ferris wheel to be located north of Belmont Avenue (exact location unknown). Chicago Tribune in 1894 indicated that the community of “Lake View would become a great amusement park area of the city”. 
Ferris Wheel Park was established in 1896 in the area south of Diversey on the corner area of Clark and (Sherman) Drummond in the new District of Lake View in Chicago.
Shortly after, and with vocal citizen opposition from a newly formed civic group called the Improvement and Protection Organization (IPO) the owners of the new park had to file for bankruptcy in 1900 due to lack of local community support and general citywide patronage. The lack of support of the park was due to its location within a residential subdivision and the residents of this new annex area were not fans of the owner of the park - Mr. Yerkes who owned the Chicago Electric Street Railway - owned and  operated streetcars on Evanston (Broadway) Avenue and Clark Street. 
Mr. Yerkes manage to extend his Clark Street operation to the end of the line on Drummond Avenue exclusively for this amusement park, Ferris Wheel Park.
Transportation Industrialist Charles Yerkes
Mr. Yerkes owned the park and the transportation rails to his park - the end of the line from Chicago called the 'Limits' that was located just a few blocks south of Diversey on Clark.
postcard image - Ebay
For years, Mr. Yerkes tried to circumvent property owners by trying through city governmental agencies to acquire property for his company without due process and succeed for a few more years with his creation until 1903-4. In other words,
he was trying to create a Great America Amusement park experience in a middle of a urban residential neighborhood.
Construction or re-construction photo - not sure
The 'Wheel' was sold to the City of St. Louis by 1904 for their own amusement park that also failed.  As a side note, the man who owned the rights to the park, Charles Tyson Yerkes - the owner of the North West Rail Company that controlled transportation in the city at the time apparently skipped town by 1911 leaving his rail company to flounder and his dream park a distant memory. By 1906, the world famous carriage wheel was sold for scrap.
The 1895 re-assembly of the Ferris Wheel at its new location along Clark Street & Wrightwood Avenue
- Chicago History in Pictures
The New Location on Wrightwood 
February 26th 1895
Opposition from Property Owners
 in February 28th 1895

Plans for Lake View in 1895

photo - Calumet 412
another view near Clark Street 
1899 photo - Man on Five

images - Art Institute of Chicago 
Another season opener 1896
(click on article to enlarge)
Troubles in the Park 1896 
1897 photo - Ebay
photo - Paul Petraitis, Forgotten Chicago on Facebook
View from Pine Grove & Wrightwood Avenues 
of the dis-assembly or assembly
photo - Living History of Illinois and Chicago-Facebook
 photos via Ron Kolman Forgotten Chicago-Facebook
a faded view of it beyond the cannon below
a Chicago Trib 1899 advertisement below
An Idea in 1900
image - Tommy Henry 
via Forgotten Chicago Discussion Group
a 1901 Program Booklet
 images -Chicago Public Library

In 1902 Another Possible Relocation

The Ferris Wheel found a new & final home 
but not for long in 1906  

It's new home in the City of St. Louis 
The wheel was purchased by the Chicago House Wrecking Company at auction and brought to St. Louis for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition where it was owned and operated by them as well.

now one ball of steel ...

photo via Shahrdad Khokamoradi via
Picture of Chicago-Faceook 
It's Demise in 1906
photo - Glen Miller, Forgotten Chicago-Facebook
In 2013 the City of Chicago TV produced a video of the current Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier. Check it out!
In 2015 the newer Ferris Wheel at Navy Pier will be larger than the second one but not as large as the first. 
Read more with this link.
Andy Kowalczyk, contributor to Forgotten Chicago-Facebook mentioned that “It is regularly claimed that Dunns Bridge over the Kankakee River in Indiana was constructed from remnants of the ferris wheel” per his source Wikipedia. But according to Shahrdad Khodamoradi, a contributor to Forgotten Chicago-Facebook, “I think the bridge made of parts of the wheel is a myth. There are no reports of the wheel being carefully dismantled and re-purposed. 
the streetcar rails are still underneath 
at Clark Street and Wrightwood Avenue
2018 photo - Constance Autumn Pearson via
Forgotten Chicago-Facebook
Post Notes: 
On the west side of Western Avenue at Belmont was the iconic Riverview Park. Western Avenue was the western border of Old (township,city, District of) Lake View so not part of my blog but here is a good summary + vintage photos from a Forgotten Chicago on Facebook contributor, Glenn Miller. Also, a YouTube memory by WGN. Read the commentary from Forgotten Chicago on Facebook about this park.

Important Note:
These posts are exclusively used for educational purposes. I do not wish to gain monetary profit from this blog nor should anyone else without permission for the original source - thanks!